Iran Nomads: Qashqai
The Qashqai is one of the largest and most famous tribal confederacies in Iran. They compose a community of settled, semi-settled, and pastoral nomadic households who reside mainly in the Fars region. The confederation is divided into five major tribes and several minor ones. All of these tribes have a common political history, a shared cultural and linguistic heritage, and present social ties. Qashqai speaks the Qashqai language, a dialect of Turkish closely related to Azerbaijani. Most Qashqai is bilingual in Qashqai and Persian (Farsi), and there are a lot of borrowed Persian words in their own language. The actual Qashqai language has not been reduced to writing.

Iran Nomads: Qashqai
The Qashqai is one of the largest and most famous tribal confederacies in Iran. They compose a community of settled, semi-settled, and pastoral nomadic households who reside mainly in the Fars region. The confederation is divided into five major tribes and several minor ones. All of these tribes have a common political history, a shared cultural and linguistic heritage, and present social ties. Qashqai speaks the Qashqai language, a dialect of Turkish closely related to Azerbaijani. Most Qashqai is bilingual in Qashqai and Persian (Farsi), and there are a lot of borrowed Persian words in their own language. The actual Qashqai language has not been reduced to writing.

Iran Nomads: Qashqai

History of the Qashqai

Nothing is known about the origin and early history of the Qashqai tribe. Some name Kashgar, in the remote corner of Central Asia close to China, as their original homeland, and claim that Qashqais came to Iran with Genghis Khan. Others believe that they are related to the Oghuz Turks (later the Turkmen) or their close allies, the Khalaj Turks. Both of these ethnic groups were remnants of the Massagetae tribes, a constant threat to the Iranian borders from at least the time of Cyrus the Great, who was killed by them in battle. Still, others presume that the Qashqai penetrated Iran from the Caucasus, and are of the Aryan, rather than the Yellow race. Whatever the true origin of the Qashqai may be, authorities concur in that the migration of these people took place in several waves, none of which predated the 14th century.
The Qashqai was united as a confederation of tribes under their preeminent Safavid-era leader, Jani Aqa Qashqai, who was given authority over the tribes of the Fars region by Shah Abbas. It seems that the name of the tribe is also derived from this person. In his day, the Qashqai confederation became one of the best-organized and most powerful tribal confederations in Iran. The Qashqai gradually built up such great power that they became a threat to the centralized government. Under Nader Shah, in order to fragment their influence, some of the groups of the confederation were forcibly transferred to Khorasan, but during the Zand period, most of them returned home. The hey day of Qashqai prominence was during the 19th century and the early years of the 20th. Although there were ebbs and flows, at that time the Qashqai became increasingly hierarchical and centralized. During the Qajar rule, the Qashqai were active participants in the country's political life and even claimed autonomy.

To counterbalance their power, the confederation of the Khamseh tribes (see below) was created by the Qavam family, the richest merchants of Shiraz. The two groups were frequently bitter rivals, haying on occasion serious encounters with each other and with the state authorities: these encounters sometimes culminated in physical violence. The Qashqai, however, retained enough strength to defeat, under their most notable leader, Khan Salat al-Dowleh, the British-led South Persia Rifles in 1918. The Pahlavi dynasty sought to ensure its control of the nomads by means of compulsory settlement. Reza Shah saw them as a potential threat to the security of the settled majority in the country, and also believed that no integrated Iranian state was possible whilst the nomadic tribes formed virtual states within the state. As well, the tribes were viewed as an anachronism in the modern Iran toward which Reza Shah was striving. In his pursuit of the ideals innate in westernizing and modernizing the country, Reza Shah dealt severely with the tribes. Whenever possible, numbers of tribesfolk were transferred in groups to areas distant from their tribal territory, and many attempts were made to force nomads to settle in villages newly built for this purpose. Many tribal leaders were executed or imprisoned, and the vitally essential migrations were either forbidden or greatly curtailed. The consequences were great hardships brought about by the considerable loss of livestock, the impoverishment of the nomadic tribes, and the marked reduction of their numbers. Travelers to Fars in the 1930s have left us moving accounts of tents' being destroyed by the authorities, and replaced with dead-straight rows of mud huts. Although this misguided en-forcement and attempt to "westernize the nomadic people may have been politically expedient, it was economically disastrous and moreover, did untold damage to tribal cultures. The Darreshuri subtribe of the Qashqai confederation, famous throughout Asia as horse breeders, lost nearly all of their thousands of horses when forced by the ban against migration to winter in the cold mountains. Quite naturally, soon after Reza Shah's abdication in 1941, nomadism was partially reinstated, and many forcibly-settled tribal groups returned to the nomadic way of life.

The second wave of forced settlement was begun by Mohammad Reza Shah in the mid-1950s. He began by exiling the Qashqai leaders because of their support of Mohammad Mosadded's government. In the early 1960s, he nationalized pastures and enacted a national land reform. Simultaneous with the implementation of new land policies, the shah took steps to seize military and political control of the Qashqai people from the tribal khans, and to place that control in the hands of government agents. Rural police (gendarmes) disarmed the Qashqai and subjected their seasonal migrations to military control.
Following the Islamic Revolution, several former Qashqai leaders attempted to revitalize their tribes as major political and economic forces. Many factors impeded this development, including the decline in numbers, the disorganization of nomadic populations due to their largescale settlement; and the consequent change in attitudes, especially among youth lured by cities and the settled life. The process of settling the Qashqai, and the further incorporation of these people into Iranian society is still going on. Settled Qashqai are dispersed throughout southern Iran, but the greatest numbers are in rural and urban locations in north-, mid-, and south-central Fars. They are engaged in farming and horticulture, while others have found employment in cities.


 

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